In Somali society political representation is a complex issue related to notions of descent and perceived and self-ascribed power, size and territorial control of clans. Markus Hoehne examines Somali notions of ‘belonging’ and reviews representation in internationally-mediated peace conferences, and local political representation in Sool region. He concludes that delegates’ legitimacy is tied to their ‘accountability’ to the people who select them.
Somali representatives in peace processes commonly wear several ‘hats’, transferring afﬁliation as appropriate to whichever role suits their personal interests or those of their patrons. Efforts to reduce this complexity to simplistic blueprints have so far proved ineffective.
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Representation is a complex issue in Somali society, which has been devastated by several decades of civil war causing distrust between people and disillusion with the ‘state’.
Belonging and citizenship
Before the outbreak of the civil war in the late 1980s Somalis were commonly perceived as a homogenous ‘nation’. Building a perception of cultural integrity served the interests of nationalist and post-colonial elites who were striving to overcome centrifugal forces of clanism.
Complexities of representation
The internationally-sponsored national reconciliation conferences in Arta, Djibouti (2000), and Mbagathi, Kenya (2002-04), illustrate the complexities and challenges of organising representation in Somali peace talks.
Multiple affiliations: the Dhulbahante clan in the Sool region
The situation in Sool region in northern Somalia demonstrates competing Somali models of belonging, based variously on lineage, territoriality and religious orientation.
Representation and accountability
Representation in Somalia is characterised by multiple affiliations, shifting alliances and transferable identities based on nation, clan and religion. Somali representatives in peace processes commonly wear several ‘hats’, transferring affiliation as appropriate to whichever role suits their personal interests or those of their patrons. Efforts to reduce this complexity to simplistic blueprints such as the 4.5 formula or standardised concepts of federalism have so far proved ineffective.